Last weekend has been spent celebrating my gorgeous friend’s wedding with all my old school pals in the New Forest. She is the second one of us to tie the knot (after me) and looked just beautiful. The day was perfect in every way and as I type this I think the newly weds have already landed in Dubai for their ‘mini moon’, yup that’s a thing now – 1 honey moon just isn’t enough! As the weekend events has started coming back to me, it got me thinking about marriage, love, sex, babies and what the future means for newly married couples.
You see sex is such a funny old thing isn’t it. We’re still embarrassed about talking about it openly, so much so that when I talk to women postnatally about contraception I don’t know who is blushing more, me or the woman? Often the woman is looking at me like I’m mad and probably thinking ‘I have a new born baby, stitches that still haven’t healed and my breasts are so sore and swollen I feel like a Jersey cow but yes I can’t wait to have sex with my husband’. Am I right?
And it’s pretty silly really, as sex is the reason why you’re pregnant in the first place. I mean if it wasn’t for sex I would be out of a job and the world would be a very strange place.
SO why are we still so prudish about chatting about sex especially after you’ve had a baby? Us girls pretty much tell each other everything about our births but once that baby has left your body no one wants to be the first at the postnatal coffee group to say ‘we tried to have sex last night but I was so dry my partner couldn’t get it in.’ Women want to be seen to be handling it all, a new baby, her postnatal figure, sleep routines, the transition into motherhood so there’s no way anyone would want to confess that they haven’t had sex since their baby was born 8 months ago.
So when is the right time to have sex and what does it really feel like?
The answer is; when you feel ready. That may be when your baby is 5 weeks old or when it’s 5 months old. Only you know your body and how you feel so don’t feel pressured by others or your partner for that matter. By the time you may be thinking about having sex you might have a vague idea when your baby might be asleep for more than 10 minutes preferably in the cot on not in the sling (awkward). Always pick a time when your baby has had a good feed especially if you’re breastfeeding (no one wants a leaky boob whilst their partner is on top) and has a clean nappy. Nothing like killing the moment to change an up-the-back-leaked-all-over-the-clean-babygrow-type-poo.
Unless you’re Tamara Ecclestone your post baby body isn’t going to look how it use to. I remember being horrified when looking down at my stomach whilst in a certain position during sex with my partner after my first baby thinking ‘will it always hang down like that???’ Obviously with a bit of time and work it did eventually look marginally more acceptable but it still wobbles and rolls in 3 places and I’d opt for the ‘spoons’ position rather than on top any day.
For me and the majority of women out there, the first you have postnatal sex is a bit like ,well, the first time you ever had sex – awkward, embarrassing, nerve racking and uncomfortable. You hope it will be over fairly quickly (it often is) and you don’t really want to talk about it ever again.
As one of my friends recently shared with me after her first time,”I think sex after birth is an oxymoron in itself… It’s terrifyingly wonderful. I was petrified of wiping myself after having a wee, let alone having a willy go there!! However, it’s so lovely when you realise it all feels just as amazing and helps to reunite you as a couple.”
Try not to ask your partner if it feels wider, bigger, looser, softer or different during sex. It will put him off and kill the mood. You may feel different but you partner may not even notice. He will just be pleased to be able to have some intimacy with you after such a long break.
“The worst thing was the nerves. I was really tense – Would it hurt? Would he feel my stitches? What if I felt different or it wasn’t enjoyable for either of us? It was like it was my first time all over again! It wasn’t actually that bad or that uncomfortable, I think the fact that I was so tense was the biggest cause of discomfort. After lots of reassurance from my boyfriend and a few more go’s I’ve got my confidence back, have relaxed and am enjoying it much more again” another friend adds.
If you’ve had a c-section your vagina and perineum should feel and look the same as before you were pregnant (lucky you) but you may still feel sore around your scar and your stomach muscles can still feel pretty wounded. A position like ‘spoons’ is probably sensible as it doesn’t put any strain on your tummy.
If you’ve had a vaginal birth obviously make sure your tear is completely healed before embarking on a passionate night in the bedroom. (Usually at your 6 week postnatal check up with your GP you have the opportunity to raise any issues you may have about your perineum and vagina). You may want to even have a look with a mirror before hand and see how things are looking. Don’t be freaked out by this idea, you will be surprised how well the vaginal and perineal tissues heal. I had a small tear with no stitches and honestly I couldn’t see where the tear even was, let alone feel it. And I have seen lots of women’s vaginas after they’ve had an episiotomy or a 2nd degree tear and again the tissues have healed really well. Getting to know what down there looks like is important for understanding how our bodies work and how well we heal after having babies. Go mother nature!
“I had trouble not only getting in the mood but also with lubricating naturally. My baby was breach and then ended up having to be an emergency c-section after sort of getting whipped out. With body confidence issues aside, I also found various angles of penetration extremely uncomfortable (probably due to the sweeps I had during labour and the fact that I almost managed to give birth naturally) After a few months, I finally got the confidence to do so and after a good long while I finally found a position that was completely comfortable with (on my side, him behind) this meant that I didn’t need to worry about my hideous tummy, but also the angle worked perfectly. It took over a year for things to return to normal but we took it very very slowly and eventually things returned to normal.”
It’s normal for the vagina to feel drier than usual after childbirth which is linked to lower levels of oestrogen in your body compared to when you were pregnant. If you are breastfeeding this may be even lower so using a lubrication such as a KY jelly may help ease this and make sex and oral sex with your partner more enjoyable.
So my top tips to round this awkward over sharing blog post off is:
- Only have sex when YOU feel ready
- Choose a time when the baby is fed, clean and asleep
- If it hurts or feels uncomfortable it’s ok to stop and try again at another time
- Choose positions which make you feel comfortable so you can enjoy it
- If wearing a chemise, bra, corset, pair of Spanx in bed makes you feel more confident then go for it!
- ALWAYS use contraception – even if you are breastfeeding
- And remember the more pelvic floor exercises you do, the tighter your muscles will be and the less likely you are to wet yourself on a trampoline!